Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering Don Barry

Donald Barry De Acosta was born on January 11, 1912 in Houston, Texas. A college football star, Barry went from the stage to the screen. After four years of playing villains and henchmen at various studios, Barry got the role that changed his image: Red Ryder in the Republic Pictures serial “Adventures of Red Ryder” (1940). Although he had appeared in westerns for two years or so, this was the one that kept him there. He acquired the nickname "Red" from his association with the Red Ryder character. After the success of "Red Ryder", Barry starred in a string of westerns for Republic. Studio chief Herbert J. Yates got the idea that Barry could be Republic's version of James Cagney, as he was short and had the same scrappy, feisty nature that Cagney had. Unfortunately, while Barry could in fact be a good actor when he wanted to be -- as he showed in the WW II drama “The Purple Heart” (1944), his "feistiness", combative nature and oversized ego caused him to alienate many of the casts and crews he worked with at Republic. Barry made a series of westerns at Republic throughout the 1940s, but by 1950 his career had pretty much come to a halt, and he was reduced to making cheaper and cheaper pictures for bottom-of-the-barrel companies like Lippert and Screen Guild. Barry continued to work and still appeared in westerns up through the 1970s, but they were often in small supporting roles, sometimes unbilled. Don appeared in one Euro-western as Buffalo in 1968’s “Shalako”. On July 18, 1980, Barry killed his young wife after a domestic dispute in his North Hollywood home. Later, he committed suicide by putting a revolver to his head and pulling the trigger while on the front lawn of his home. Don was 69 years old. His death was sad but not a surprising end to an erratic life and career. Today we remember Don Barry on what would have been his 100th birthday.

1 comment:

  1. I was born on the 13th anniversary of Don Barry's death on July 18, 1993. He was one of many American actors to play Red Ryder. Sad to think he committed suicide. RIP Red Ryder. Dead at 68. Gone but not forgotten.